China admiral touts cooperation while warning on South China Sea
CHINESE Adm. Sun Jianguo used a speech to global defense chiefs to tout his military’s cooperation in the western Pacific, while taking aim at the US for sailing ships near reefs China claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Sun’s address struck a more conciliatory tone at the Shangri- La security dialogue in Singapore than last year, even as China beefs up its military presence in contested areas. He stressed the People’s Liberation Army’s interactions with the militaries of Southeast Asia and countries like India and Japan.
“The Asia-Pacific countries have constituted a community of shared destiny, interdependent and inseparable,” Sun said on Sunday. “The bright future for the Asia-Pacific region has to be facilitated by common development and common security of all regional countries.”
China contests more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in seaborne trade passes every year, overlapping claims from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. It has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the area in the past few years, and built some military infrastructure.
“China advocates a new security outlook, featuring inclusive, shared and win-win security cooperation by all,” Sun said. “From the defense and military perspective, China believes that countries in the Asia-Pacific region should work together to promote security governance.”
WHILE Sun said China was committed to peace and security, he said China would not accept a Hague ruling on the South China Sea expected within weeks. The arbitration court is considering a Philippine challenge to China’s territorial claims.
In the lead up to the ruling, China has mounted a public relations blitz in the media to promote its position on the waterway. China’s diplomats have been ferrying around Southeast Asian nations.
Sun said China’s door was open to incoming Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte to resume bilateral talks on their territorial dispute.
“China isn’t out to stir trouble but neither is China scared of trouble,” Sun said. “China will not stand for its sovereign rights to be trampled on.”
“The South China Sea’s freedom of navigation hasn’t been impeded because of the territorial disputes,” Sun said. “We stress peaceful negotiations through legitimate means in resolving any disputes.”
Sun also said China’s military was working well with counterparts in the US, and cited an agreement between the two to manage unplanned encounters at sea. At the same time, he implicitly rebuked the US for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, where the US has sailed near reefs that China says belong to it.
“If freedom of navigation is compromised in the South China Sea, then China is the largest victim,” he said. “If freedom of navigation is undermined, then China would not be to blame.”
Sun also rebutted US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s comment on Saturday that China risked building a “Great Wall of selfisolation” through its actions on the South China Sea, saying he had had positive interactions at Shangri-La with defense ministers and chiefs.
“Most of them are warmer and more friendly to me than last year and they respect me and trust me more than last year,” he said. “We have not received so many questions about the South China Sea as last year.”
“In fact China is open, inclusive and a responsible country, it is a participator and constructor and contributor to the current international system,” Sun said. “We are not isolated and we will not be isolated in the future.”